You may have heard a few years back about the concern with diacetyl, a chemical ingredient used for the artificial butter flavor in microwave popcorn. Diacetyl was connected to a rare lung disease found in hundreds of popcorn factory workers (and recently in a few lifelong microwave popcorn eaters). Many of the big popcorn manufacturers removed the diacetyl from their corn about 2 years ago, but there is still concern about the safety of the supposed “new and safer” butter substitutes in use now, namely 2,3-penanedione, diacetyl trimer, and butter starter distillate.
The lung problems are not caused from the popcorn itself, but from the vapors you inhale when the bag is opened. Speaking of the bag, and to make matters worse, there’s even more concern about the chemicals used to line the bag, specifically a substance called perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA). PFOA builds up in the body over time, and has been linked to infertility, birth defects, and increased liver, testicular, and pancreatic cancer. Manufacturer’s have agreed to phase out the PFOA, but not until 2015. Thanks.
This whole issue just makes me wonder why we ever stopped popping corn ourselves? I remember my mom popping corn the old fashioned way — on the stove top! Save a few episodes of running out of the house with a burning pot (remember that, mom?) it was a fast, easy, and healthy snack. Why do we even need the fake stuff?
So, what can you do? Well, if you’re an everyday eater of microwave popcorn, you may want to stop. And you certainly shouldn’t stick your face near the fumes when opening the bag. But even better, why not start making your own?
I wrote a post last year that includes a how-to video and seasoning ideas for homemade popcorn. Below is a super easy recipe from Chaos in the Kitchen:
(makes about 5 cups for bag)
3 Tbsp popcorn kernels
1 paper bag
stapler or scotch tape, or just fold it over
1- add popcorn kernels to paper bag or glass bowl
2-fold, staple or tape bag closed; or cover glass bowl
3 – microwave the popcorn for up to 2 minutes (test this, microwaves vary)
4 – open bag, season popcorn and eat!
Here’s to putting the healthy back into this old-school favorite!
Danielle Omar, MS, RD
The Food Confidence Expert